Modern technology has brought with it great advances and unforeseen challenges. Among the most demanding of these challenges is the need to ensure our children know how to use the internet in a healthy and productive way. The question of whether parents should monitor their child’s internet usage is paramount in the process.
Parents should monitor their child’s internet use because the internet is filled with unfiltered potential for kids to be exposed to harmful interactions like bullying and harassment, as well as inappropriate content. There is real potential a child online could become involved in relationships with people who pretend to be someone online that they are not in real life.
Needless to say, the potential for negative interactions is vast on the web.
Parents must be resolute in their commitment to support their children as they learn how to interact online in a way that is appropriate for their age.
Reasons a Parent Should Monitor Internet Usage
Monitoring your child’s internet usage will be a lengthy and arduous process.
You should stay committed during those moments where it seems letting go of the reigns will be easier.
To help you, here is a list of reasons why you should be very involved in how your child uses the internet.
The Internet is Permanent
All kids make poor decisions at times.
A big part of being a kid is learning and growing from your mistakes. The internet makes that harder to do.
Online conduct is permanent. Although it can be buried at times, it will still be out there somewhere.
You need to be aware of the lasting nature of your child’s online actions to better appreciate the need to regulate internet usage.
In five or ten years your teenager is not going to be the same person they are today.
A potential employer who searches their name and finds something they don’t like can reject them for a job they want and deserve.
Their actions online today can hurt their chances of creating the future you are helping them work hard for tomorrow.
If your child is being bullied online you will obviously be in a better position to help them if you are aware of the problem.
By establishing a system for monitoring internet usage you will be putting yourself in a place to help them out of a potentially hurtful or damaging situation before it escalates.
Kids have always been mean to each other at times, but before the internet, they were forced to separate.
If the problem was at school or in the neighborhood, they got a break when they went home.
Today’s kids who are always connected do not get that luxury. They sometimes face constant bombardment from their peers.
If you are monitoring and regulating your child’s internet usage they will spend less time on devices that expose them to negative behaviors and will know how to conduct themselves when they are on their device.
Online predators are strangers who seek to begin a relationship online with a kid with the intent of committing child sexual abuse.
They present themselves to the child in an appealing manner and take the time to develop the trust of the child to make seduction easier.
Contact is often made in public forums where anonymity is easy for the offender.
Chat rooms, internet messaging, social networking, and video games are all key online spaces where establishing contact is easy.
Like other types of texts, these never go away. Teens, in particular, can be impulsive in this area of their young lives.
They don’t have enough life experience or perspective to fully understand just how negatively they can be impacted by this type of conduct.
At the time, they may think they are sending private messages to someone who would never share them.
Their naivety compromises their online (and real world) reputation. As a result, they are at greater risk for blackmail, online predators, and bullying.
They could also be subject to legal action and may face charges in a court of law that stay with them for life.
The Internet Limits Real Social Interaction
People don’t talk to each other on the internet the way they do in person.
Online we see people taking on a more aggressive style than they do face to face.
For those of us who are older, we know there is a certain level of civility that is required when we interact face to face.
Kids who grew up with the internet have a harder time distinguishing between the norms required for online interactions and those in person.
If you have the opportunity to see how they conduct themselves online you can compare that to how they act with people in person and help them learn from their experiences.
The lessons you pull from your observations may help inform the direction you guide your child in how they deal with others.
Then you can work on creating a plan for helping them learn how to interact with other people on the web and in person.
How Parents Can Monitor Their Child’s Internet Usage
Once you are committed to why you need to know how.
Understanding that monitoring your child’s internet usage has more to do with your relationship with them and less to do with using technology to monitor their every move will help lead you to a mutual understanding with your child.
No expert can say exactly what a parent should or shouldn’t do when it comes to their kids and the internet.
Each situation is different. What is well known is that parents who are involved in their kid’s lives and talk to them about the challenges they face are more likely to facilitate the child’s healthy development.
Kids who think they can rely on their parents as a trusted guide bring their problems to their parents more often than kids who don’t.
So, the first step in monitoring your child’s internet usage is to make sure your connection with them is strong.
Talk with them often about what is going on in their lives. Don’t make it all about internet usage or any one thing.
Instead, work on building up the lines of communication so your child trusts you and wants to ask you for help because they know you will be there for them.
I wrote an article on parenting techniques designed to help parents who want some ideas on how to do a better job in this area.
Tell Them Up Front You Will Monitor Their Activity
You want to show them you are their guide.
As part of the deal to get their first device, let them know that they will have to earn the freedom to use it in new ways as they prove their responsibility and you will be monitoring their activity as they do.
Make it as positive as you can and openly explain to them how you will monitor them.
Understand that you are also implicitly teaching them about privacy, so the way you go about this will shape their perception of how you respect their privacy. Be as open and transparent as you can.
Limit Screen Time
This one fits regardless of whether you want to monitor their usage. Too much screentime is bad for kids.
There are many reasons why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited their children’s access to devices.
This is one of those instances where it is probably best to follow the lead of the inventors of the technology you and your family are using.
Encourage your child to spend more of their time on things that build their focus, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
In the process, you will also be indirectly addressing what they are doing online.
Try to limit device usage to only certain days of the week and to a certain time of day to ensure they are not getting too much exposure to online content.
Limit Device Access
Limiting device access is a powerful tool for parents to use as they are putting an internet usage monitoring system in place.
In short, if you limit the way your child accesses the internet then you are limiting the risk they face for engaging in risky behavior and you are reducing the number of interactions that you need to monitor.
Some strategies you can use to make this easier include:
- Only allow them to use family PC
- Teach them how to use online tools at home so you can be the one to show them the right way
- Don’t let them have their own personal device until you are sure they are mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with it
- Only allow access to certain features of their device (let them earn more over time)
Understand They Are Probably Savvier Than You
There are many programs and apps out there that claim to monitor a child’s internet usage.
Some of them may work well and you may want to use them.
However, you shouldn’t let that fool you into thinking that the technology you are using gives you a complete handle on the situation.
Your greatest tool to ensure your child learns how to use the internet responsibly is the relationship you have with them, not apps that are designed to catch them in the act of breaking the rules.
If you have safeguards in place and they want to get around them, they are going to try to figure it out or talk to someone who may be able to tell them how.
Use the technology available to assist you in your efforts to reduce your child’s screen time, but don’t expect it to do most of the job for you.
Remember the Big Picture
Keep in mind that you are doing a balancing act here. The more you appear to have a need to be involved in their affairs, the more the child is going to attempt to keep them private.
The more you try to forcibly see what they are doing, the less they are going to trust you.
Your best tool in this situation is your relationship with the child. Build up their trust in you so they want to tell you what is going on in their lives, both online and in person.
For those situations where they are not talking to you, talk to them if you think there is a need.
For example, your child may or may not talk to you about drug usage, but if you connect with them frequently and have open conversations about and make sure they are educated on the topic they may be better prepared to make a good choice when needed.
How Do I Keep My Child Safe On the Internet?
Be connected and get involved in their cyber lives. Like any other safety endeavor, presence and communication are key.
Limit their access to the internet and place the family computer in a location that will allow you to monitor their activity when they are permitted to go online.
Make sure they are clear on the rules for computer use in your home and the consequences if they break those rules.
How Do I Protect My Child From Social Media?
It starts with communication.
Make sure your connection with them is strong so they are willing to be honest with you about what is going on in their lives.
Put strong rules in place the protect them and allow them to earn freedom gradually when they are ready for it.
Don’t allow kids that are too young to be on social media in the first place.